- Education and Science
Lightening - Does it really help my grass grow?
Our yard was newly seeded and looking pretty depressing. My new neighbour saw me surveying the yard and he said all we would need is a day of thunder and lightening. Not the short-lived thunderstorms when the rain comes down in torrents and washes away the seed, just one of those days when the thunder rolls and rumbles, like a grumpy toddler. No tantrums, just general discontent. He said, that after a day like that the yard would be green; that I would be able to see the grass grow. He said it was the lightening, that lightening helps things grow. Was he joking? Was he trying to see how gullible his new neighbour was or was he serious?
A Thunder-y Day
We did have a thunder-y day. There was some rain, but mostly it was just overcast and the thunder rumbled in the distance. Of course, thunder is simply the sound we hear when there is lightening, so really it was a day of lightening. And sure enough, my yard became noticeably greener. The little spikes of grass began poking up and it really did seem that it was growing right before my eyes.
So was my neighbour right? Do plants need lightening to grow? He grew up in farm country and he said that after a thunder storm the fields were always greener.
It's the Nitrogen
When I mentioned my neighbour's comment to another acquaintance (also a farm country native), she said, 'Oh yes, it releases nitrogen in the soil.' Apparently, this was not a joke. The neighbour had not been teasing, and maybe it wasn't just a coincidence that my grass was growing better after the thunder-y day.
What the research turned up
As I began reading about lightening and its effects on plant growth, I discovered there is certainly some truth it. The air is comprised of 78% nitrogen and about 20% oxygen. Nitrogen is needed for plant growth, but the form of nitrogen in the air cannot be used by plants. However, the heat from the lightening causes the nitrogen to become "fixed", meaning that it joins up with the oxygen molecules to form nitrogen oxides which can then be used by plants. The falling rain helps to gather the nitrogen oxide and bring it directly to the plants for some instant and natural fertilizing.
While the research indicates that lightening does indeed create nitrogen oxide in the atmosphere, it also appears that the amount it creates is a small percentage. While one gardening site went so far as to suggest that you place wooden stakes with copper wire around your garden to attract lightening to help your garden grow, most sites claim that the nitrogen oxide created during a thunderstorm is such a small percentage that it would not make a noticeable difference.
I do not think I will be stringing up copper wire around my yard to attract lightening to help my grass grow, and I do believe that the nitrogen oxide created in the atmosphere from lightening is small in comparison to the nitrogen oxide being formed by bacteria, but I also know what I saw.
We had a day of lightening and very little rain. We had been using a sprinkler on the seed and nothing much was happening, so it wasn't simply the little bit of rain that produced the dramatic results. Something caused my grass seed to burst open and make an appearance. I think I'll stick with the farmers on this one.
Lightening certainly had a positive effect upon my yard. It was green and growing after the thunder-y day thanks to some nitrogen oxide giving it a boost.